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What Makes a Good Retirement?

There is a lot of retirement advice - really a lot. Key that phrase - retirement advice - into Google and you get 350 million returns. That's the exact number – 350,000,000 - meaning there is whole lot more but Dr. Google probably reached her retrieval limit.

And every word of that advice is about money. Just money. From big companies who want some of your money to, if you scroll through enough Google pages, individual money entrepreneurs who want some of your money. They all want your money.

Every one of them, too, will tell you exactly how much money you need to have to retire in comfort and happiness and for most people that number is almost always more than, or damned close to, what they earned in their entire working life.

Nevertheless, each of them promises you can still somehow have the million or two million or other astronomical figure they warn you must have if you just pay them a whole lot of money to give you the secret.

This all came to mind a few days ago when a review of yet another book about what you need to retire happily (the answer, always, is money) was reviewed in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The author is (what else?) a financial planner who says that

”...happy retirees have a liquid net worth of at least $500,000; they have about three activities, hobbies or interests they love to pursue and they have a home value of at least $300,000. They also have an annual retirement income at or near $82,770. Unhappy retirees average about $53,370.”

Oh dear. My net worth and home value are well below this man's happiness quotient for those items and my retirement income is so much lower than his unhappiness average that I guess I might as well shoot myself now.

I wonder if it would surprise this guy to know that as small as my income is (by his standards), I am not unhappy and further, I know plenty of other retired people who live on less than I do and they're not unhappy either.

Generally, day to day, I am satisfied. I am grateful for my continued good health. I enjoy the work that goes into this blog and into helping develop Three Rivers Village in my community.

I take pleasure in good books (and some trashy ones, too), in some movies, music and in following politics and a few other topics that have always engaged me.

Although I did not intend to retire ten years ago when I was forced out of the workplace and would be employed, out of choice, still had that not happened, I enjoy the freedom to order my days differently now, to live on my schedule and experiment with my time.

After four years now in my new home state, I have made some friends but I also treasure my time alone, my solitude – I have always needed lots of that.

Would I like to have more money than I do? Yes. I lost more than a third of my savings in the 2008 crash and am nowhere near getting it back.

Would I like a deeper cushion for any future disasters? Of course. But a whole lot in life, a whole lot of living is uncertain, unpredictable, even precarious for most people. Why should I be any different.

What this guy and all the other 35 million retirement advisers don't get is that barring abject poverty (which they have no interest in helping anyway), happiness has little to do with money.

How's your retirement going?


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Wendl Kornfeld: Everybody Has a Story


No, Humans are NOT Living Longer than in the Past

Hardly a day goes when when I don't read that we humans are living longer than ever before. By many years.

“...old age now mostly means we have more years on the clock than did our forbearers. A lot more.” (Next Avenue)
“There’s no doubt that we’re living longer than previous generations.” (Time magazine)
“People in developed nations are living in good health as much as a decade longer than their parents did. (Science Daily)

But the truth is, we are not living longer or, anyway, not by much and certainly not by a decade. The people who write this stuff are plain wrong.

Some cite the fact that there are billions more old people in the world than there were in the past but that's just because there are billions more people of every age on the planet nowadays. (You, perhaps, have heard of the population explosion even if those reporters have not.)

The main reason for these false assertions is a misreading of what “life expectancy” means and how it is measured.

Until the mid-20th century, large numbers of babies died in infancy and toddlerhood. So when you measure life expectancy from birth, including those babies in the average, it looks like life expectancy in your grandparents' – even parents' – day was only 45 or 50 years.

But if you measure life expectancy from, say age five, our parents and grandparents commonly lived into their sixties and beyond, as you and I expect to do. Here is some additional explanation from research scientist, Howard Friedman:

”The correct evaluation involves life expectancy at age 65, not at birth! The truth, surprising to many, is that the average increase in life expectancy for a 65-year-old is only about three or so years.

“The increase is even smaller for retirements at ages beyond 65. And the social security retirement age is already being raised by two years (to 67)...

“Reductions in infant and child mortality have been dramatic during the 20th century, but 65-year-olds today are not strikingly healthier or longer-living than 65-year-olds of the previous generation or two.

“If life were being extended for decades there would be lots of 115-year-old Americans running around, but there aren't any at all.

It is important that you understand when life expectancy is being wrongly reported because it affects a variety of public policy proposals.

One example: every election cycle, large numbers of political candidates, usually of a certain partisan stripe, try to tell voters that Social Security is unsustainable because millions of people are living decades longer than previous generations. Not true.

There are good reasons to tweak Social Security, but decrepit centenarians sucking up unplanned-for decades of benefits is not one of them.

Dr. Friedman goes on:

”...the hard truth is that most 65-year-olds today will not be collecting those extra Social Security checks and enjoying an additional dozen or more of the golden years. “On average, they'll live only a bit longer than their parents. Increased longevity is not a valid argument for changing Social Security payouts; it's phony.”

With Leslie R. Martin, Howard S. Friedman is the author The Longevity Project, the 2011 report of an eight-decade study of 1500 Californians analyzing what behavior and character traits were common to those who lived a long time.

It is a fascinating book written with laymen in mind with some surprising conclusions that contradict conventional wisdom. It is writing with laymen in mind and I highly recommend it.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Carl Hansen: Ice Cream, Noah and My Fear of Water


2014 Medicare and Social Security Trustees' Reports

On Monday, the Medicare and Social Security Trustees released their annual report. Since it is 283 pages long, I'll give you the highlights as transmitted by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service (CMS) Media Center and NBC News.

MEDICARE FIRST
If, at this point, you are inclined to fall asleep or click over to cuteoverload, you might want to pause for moment to read the good news:

”The Medicare Trustees today projected that the trust fund that finances Medicare’s hospital insurance coverage will remain solvent until 2030, four years beyond what was projected in last year’s report.”

It is due to the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) that both solvency of the trust fun and quality of care has been improved. In addition,

”Medicare spending per beneficiary has grown quite slowly over the past few years and is projected to continue to grow slowly over the next several years.

“During the past four years, per capita Medicare spending growth has averaged 0.8 percent annually, much more slowly than the average 3.1 percent annual increase in per capita GDP and national health expenditures over the same period.”

YOUR POCKETBOOK
As you know, the premium we pay for Medicare Part B (traditional Medicare) for the next calendar year is not usually announced until October. However,

”...the preliminary estimate in the Report indicates that it will remain unchanged from the 2013 premium for the second consecutive year.”

That would be $104.90.

According to a NBC News early report on Monday, the average premium for Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage is expected to increase by less than $2 a month.

SOCIAL SECURITY
Also according to that NBC News report:

”Social Security's massive retirement program will remain solvent until 2034, officials say, although disability benefits are in more immediate danger.

“The disability trust fund now is projected to run dry in 2016, unless Congress acts. At that point, the program will collect enough payroll taxes to pay only 81 percent of benefits.

“The trustees who oversee Social Security and Medicare project a 1.5 percent increase in monthly Social Security payments to beneficiaries for next year. That would be among the lowest since automatic adjustments were adopted in the 1970s.”

If you are up for nearly 300 pages, you can read the full report here [pdf].


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Bettijane Eisenpreis: Progress is Our Least Important Product


Crabby Old Lady on Youthful Stupidity

[EDITORIAL NOTE: Over the weekend, I played hooky a bit from the work I should have been doing to spend time lost in a couple of books. One of them, The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes was a re-read that was even more engrossing and more enlightening about what it means to get old than the first two times I read it.

I have added it (the only novel so far) to my list of Best Books on Aging. It needs some further updating which I will try to get around to soon. But if you haven't looked at it - the list - you might be interested.
]


We all say stupid things when we are young. What Crabby Old Lady objects to, however, is that those who are too young to have accumulated much useful knowledge, information and experience are deliberately allowed to embarrass themselves in public.

Take this story from Huffington Post titled Six Signs You're Aging Well. Let Crabby stop right there and ask what “aging well” means?

The generous answer is that the story is about being healthy but Crabby was pretty sure, when she clicked the link, that thought would prove to be too generous.

And so it was - revealing a list that could be compiled only by someone with zero knowledge, let alone understanding, of old people. Among the six signs:

Your pants have a zipper (instead of an elastic waist)
You left your big-button phone in the 1990s where it belongs
You have an online checking account

When Crabby checked to see who writes such patronizing claptrap she found this biography:

“Yagana Shah is Huff/Post50's associate editor. She received her master's in journalism from the University of Maryland and interned with USA Today. Her interests include health news, bucket lists, and the British royal family.”

Do you suppose it was Arianna Huffington's idea to give a kid working her first paying job the geriatric beat? Is it Arianna Huffington who approves this kind of age-contemptuous drivel? And does she know that this is only the most recently egregious of such belittling contempt for old people that regularly appears on Huffpost (among sometimes better stuff)?

Crabby wanted to believe the story (well, that's inflating it; it's really just a listicle) resulted from someone's lapse in judgment, that a busy editor let it slip through. But when Crabby saw Ms. Shah's previous story - Five Sure Fire Signs You're Aging Too Fast - there was no misunderstanding that it wasn't deliberate.

Just the title, in this case, is demeaning and wait until you get a load of those five signs:

Being More forgetful
Dry mouth
Constipation
Dull, Uneven Skin Tone
Bloodshot/Red Eyes

As though only old people suffer these common indignities.

Ms. Shah has advice for elders about what to do for these conditions some of which she has cribbed from Dr. Mehmet Oz - you know, that paragon of trained physicians who promotes miracle weight loss potions.

Crabby feels bad taking down this young woman. Well, only a little. Ms. Shah lists a master's degree in journalism which confers – or should – some degree of knowledge that is absent in her advice columns for old people.

What Crabby mostly feels bad about is that this young woman, apparently due to a lack of adult supervision on the job, is made to look foolish so publicly.

But Crabby feels worse that existing prejudices about old people are reinforced. Thanks to such thoughtless ignorance, it will take longer than usual for young readers to realize there is just as much good living to be had with wrinkles, constipation and even dull skin as when one is young.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mary Mack: Endless Bars of Soap


ELDER MUSIC: Jessye Norman

Tibbles1SM100x130This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.


JESSYE NORMAN is the best singer in the world. I know, I once said that about Cecilia Bartoli, but now it’s Jessye’s turn in the spotlight.

It's not widely known that Jessye is my twin sister. She and I turned up in this world at exactly the same time. Okay, she was in Georgia, U.S.A. and I was in Victoria, Australia but given the time differences and everything else, lo and behold out we popped simultaneously and I said hi to mum and she sang to hers.

I don't think Jessye's aware of this interesting fact.

Jessye Norman

Jessye's parents were musical (in an amateur way) and Jessye took piano lessons from an early age. Once exposed to opera music, she was an instant convert and devoured the recordings of Marian Anderson and Leontyne Price (and Nat King Cole).

She proved to be a talented singer from an early age. Later, she studied at a couple of universities and gained a masters degree in music from the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor).

Jessye went to Europe to establish herself and made her debut in Wagner's Tannhäuser in Berlin. There was no holding her back.

Many, many roles, concerts and recordings followed that I won't bore you with. Let's get to the music.

Berlioz

I'll start with HECTOR BERLIOZ. Hec is probably best known for his Symphonie Fantastique but we're having something considerably less grand than that work.

He wrote a song cycle called “Les Nuits D'Été (Summer Nights)” consisting of six songs. Jessye sings one of those, Villanelle.

♫ Jessye Norman - Les Nuits D'Ete - Villanelle

Bizet

Naturally, we have to have some opera and we'll stay in France with GEORGES BIZET although the opera I've chosen, his most famous, is set in Spain. It's “Carmen”, of course.

The piece is called Je dis que rien ne m'épouvante, which roughly translated means, I say that nothing frightens me.

♫ Jessye Norman - Carmen - Je dis que rien ne m'épouvante

Jessye Norman

Jessye has branched out into other areas of music now and then and most especially spirituals, which she performs really well. Here is one such, Hush! Somebody's Calling my Name.

♫ Jessye Norman - Hush! Somebody's calling my name

Richard Strauss

RICHARD STRAUSS (who was not related to the family who wrote waltzes) wrote a song cycle called “Four Last Songs”. These really were the last things he wrote just before he died at age 84. The premiere performance of these was after he died.

The one I've chosen is the first of these so I guess you could call it the Preantepenultimate Song. It's called Frühling, which means Spring, and no, the others aren't called Summer, Autumn and Winter.

♫ Jessye Norman - Frühling

Franz Schubert

A column like this would be incomplete without some lieder from FRANZ SCHUBERT. Lieder is just a fancy word for song and is used by musical snobs who like to show off. The song I've chosen is Ganymed (or Ganymede in English).

♫ Jessye Norman - Ganymed, Op.19-3, D.544

Mascagni

PIETRO MASCAGNI wrote that rarest of musical beasts, a short opera. I refer to “Cavalleria Rusticana” which was an instant sensation when it was first performed in 1890 (possibly because the crowd could get out in plenty of time so they didn't have to pay extra time for the babysitter).

Jessye performs the role of Santuzza, a peasant girl, and her aria is Voi Lo Sapete, o Mamma.

♫ Jessye Norman - Voi Lo Sapete, o Mamma

Jessye Norman

Another spiritual, because she does them so well (of course, she does pretty much everything well, even something unexpected as you will hear at the bottom of the column). This is I Couldn't Hear Nobody Pray.

♫ Jessye Norman - I couldn't hear nobody pray

Chausson

Here are two songs by ERNEST CHAUSSON. I've included two because they are both short and are quite delightful.

Ernie was born into a rich family – his father made a fortune assisting in the redevelopment of Paris in the 1850s. He studied at the Paris Conservatoire and he was just starting to make a name for himself in music when, alas, one day at the family's country estate he was riding his bike downhill and hit a brick wall. He died instantly.

The first song is Les Papillons.

♫ Jessye Norman - Les Papillons, Op. 2 no. 3

The second song is Le Charme.

♫ Jessye Norman - Le Charme, Op. 2 no. 2

Brahms

Songs (rather than opera arias) are rather over-represented in the column but that's fine with me. The next representative is by JOHANNES BRAHMS.

Old Jo wrote two songs for voice, viola and piano. This is one of them Gestillte Sehnsucht. I have no knowledge of German but the various translators online all seem to suggest that that means Satisfied Longing.

♫ Jessye Norman - Gestillte Sehnsucht

Jessye Norman

I'll end with something I really didn't expect. This was tucked away where I couldn't find it very easily but it couldn't escape my search program. The song is Mack the Knife.

♫ Jessye Norman - Mack the knife


INTERESTING STUFF – 26 July 2014


MONTY PYTHON FAREWELL CONCERT

Several readers send this video of the final concert from the remaining members of British Monty Python comedy group.

This video is the final song on the final night of the final 10-night stand in London during which many of the other performers from earlier in the evening joined them on stage.

You can read more here.


A ROYAL BELLY LAUGH

From Darlene. You don't often see Queen Elizabeth II or her son Prince Charles having this kind of fun. Too bad we don't know what they were laughing at.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles laughing


GEORGE TAKEI'S CHILDHOOD INCARCERATION

The actor George Takei, famously known as Mr. Sulu from the original Star Trek series, was on The Daily Show to talk about a new documentary about his life and host Jon Stewart zeroed in on Takei's childhood in one of the most shameful events in American history.

Takei was five years old, he tells Stewart, when he, after Pearl Harbor, his parents and siblings were forced from their home to the camp for Japanese American citizens at Santa Anita Racetrack where a friend of mine also grew up. Take a look:

There is an extended interview online at The Daily Show website.


SAD AND FUNNY AT THE SAME TIME

Once upon a time, in 2004, a pine tree was planted in Los Angeles in memory of Beatle George Harrison:

George-harrison-tree-beetles-Gary Friedman-Los Angeles Times)

Now, the tree will be torn out and replaced because it was killed by an infestation of – wait for it – beetles. Heh.

You can read more here.


JIMMY FALLON AND KEVIN SPACEY

I've been meaning to show you this video since last May when actor Kevin Spacey appeared on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.

You may or may not know that Spacey is a decent singer. Although he is better known nowadays for playing Frank Underwood in the Netflix hit, House of Cards, in 2004, he directed and starred in Beyond the Sea, the biography movie of Bobby Darin, and sang all the songs himself. I have the album and still play it now and then. I like Spacey's voice.

On The Tonight Show, Spacey and Fallon joined the members of the barbershop quartet called Ragtime Gals to sing Talk Dirty.

There is more information with links to additional song videos here.


NO SELF DRIVING CARS FOR DECADES (?)

Some of us elders have been carefully watching the development of self-driving cars because they could be so useful to elders who, when they can no longer drive for various reasons, could be less dependent on the sometimes non-existent public transportation and the kindnesses of strangers.

Although it is only one step in the right direction, I was thrilled a few years ago, to try a self-parking car at Ford Motor headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan:

I was amazed at how well it worked. Now, however, if we can believe the MIT Technology Review (and I generally do), it will be decades before self-driving (also called autonomous) cars will be ready for urban use:

”For example, a fully autonomous car would need to understand that someone waving his arms by the side of the road is actually a policeman trying to stop traffic.

“When surveyed by the conference organizers, the 500 experts in attendance were not optimistic such problems would be solved soon. Asked when they would trust a fully robotic car to take their children to school, more than half said 2030 at the very earliest. A fifth said not until 2040, and roughly one in 10 said 'never.'”

Bummer.

I hope they're wrong. You can read the whole story here.


JOHN OLIVER TAKES ON THE U.S. PRISON SYSTEM

As I keep repeating myself – John Oliver may be the best news person on television even if he is a comedian. He has been specializing in in-depth coverage of important issues. Last Sunday on Last Week Tonight, he took on America's prison system.


POLITE CAT EXACTLY LIKE MY OLLIE

Just like the polite cat in this video, my cat Ollie taps me lightly on the arm or leg or face or whatever body part he's near when he wants a pet or a head scratch. Take a look:

For Ollie, however (and who knows – maybe this cat too), when food rather than affection is the question, he's more insistent. Well, “vicious” would be the better word and I've got the scarred ankles to prove it.


Interesting Stuff is a weekly listing of short takes and links to web items that have caught my attention; some related to aging and some not, some useful and others just for fun.

You are all encouraged to submit items for inclusion. Just click “Contact” in the upper left corner of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I probably won't have time to acknowledge receipt and there is no guarantee of publication. But when I do include them, you will be credited and I will link to your blog IF you include the name of the blog and its URL.


Growing Old with Trees

Tom Delmore, a poet himself, sends me poems by others from time to time. Two that have been waiting longer than they should to be posted here are about trees and and the men who spent a lifetime knowing them. Take a listen.

VII
By Wendell Berry

I know I am getting old and I say so,
but I don't think of myself as an old man.
I think of myself as a young man
with unforeseen debilities. Time is neither
young nor old, but simply new, always
counting, the only apocalypse. And the clouds
- no mere measure or geometry, no cubism,
can account for clouds or, satisfactorily, for bodies.
There is no science for this, or art either.
Even the old body is new—who has known it
before?—and no sooner new than gone, to be
replaced by a body yet older and again new.
The clouds are rarely absent from our sky
over this humid valley, and there is a sycamore
that I watch as, growing on the riverbank,
it forecloses the horizon, like the years
of an old man. And you, who are as old
almost as I am, I love as I loved you
young, except that, old, I am astonished
at such a possibility, and am duly grateful.

[From Leavings published in 2010]

ELEGY FOR A WALNUT TREE
By W. S. Merwin

Old friend now there is no one alive
who remembers when you were young
it was high summer when I first saw you
in the blaze of day most of my life ago
with the dry grass whispering in your shade
and already you had lived through wars
and echoes of wars around your silence
through days of parting and seasons of absence
with the house emptying as the years went their way
until it was home to bats and swallows
and still when spring climbed toward summer
you opened once more the curled sleeping fingers
of newborn leaves as though nothing had happened
you and the seasons spoke the same language
and all these years I have looked through your limbs
to the river below and the roofs and the night
and you were the way I saw the world

[From The Moon in Morning published in 2014]


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marcy Belson: We Never Knew When to Quit


Not Like Them – Those Other Old People

Hardly a week goes by that I do not receive a press release or reader email alerting me to a photography exhibit of elders. So much so that it is hard not to conclude that it is becoming a growth industry.

The two most common categories are closeups of wrinkled skin and old people participating in sports - or, sometimes, both in the same series.

It is always better, I believe, so see more portrayals of old people, in any medium, than not. But too many of the photographs are just ordinary and stand out only for having been shot in harshly lit black-and-white which, as any denizen of the internet and certain galleries knows, is the signal that you are in the presence of “art.”

You can choose to reject that designation if your judgment tells you otherwise particularly, in my case, when it seems the photographers' goal is to shock us with the apparent ruin of 90-year-old bodies.

In June, Lillian B. Rubin died. She was 90 years old, a sociologist, a psychologist and author of several useful and well-received books including, in 2008, 60 on Up: The Truth About Aging in the 21st Century.

In reading Rubin's obituary, I was reminded of the opening line in that book,

“Getting old sucks. It always has, it always will.”

Anyone who has been reading this blog for longer than a day or two know that I disagree. But I do know what she was getting at and some of that is contained in an article she wrote for Salon in 2011:

”...old age - even now when old age often isn't what it used to be – is a time of loss, decline and stigma.

“Yes, I said stigma. A harsh word, but one that speaks to a truth that's affirmed by social researchers who have consistently found that racial and ethnic stereotypes are likely to give way over time and with contact, but not those about age.

“And where there are stereotypes, there are prejudice and discrimination – feeling and behavior that are deeply rooted in our social world, and consequently make themselves felt in our inner psychological worlds as well.”

In a short but remarkable section of that Salon article, written when Rubin was 87, she admits to her own prejudice against old people. As she recalled the interviews with elders that she conducted for 60 on Up,

”...I found myself forced back on myself, on my own prejudices about old people, even though I am also one of them.

“Even now, even after all I've learned about myself, those words – I am one of them – bring a small shock. And something inside resists.

“I want to take the words back, to shout, 'No, it's not true, I'm really not like them,' and explain all the ways I'm different from the old woman I saw pushing her walker down the street or the frail shuffling man I looked away from with a slight sense of discomfort.

“I know enough not to be surprised that I feel this way, but I can't help being somewhat shamed by it.”

My own “small shock” and “surprise” and “shame” is that sometimes I catch myself, when I pay attention, feeling like Rubin. Because even though I am hyper-aware, thanks to the work I do for this blog, that I am one perilous fall or terrible diagnosis away from disastrous need of part- or full-time care, I feel different from those who do.

But what Rubin was getting at when she wrote that getting old sucks is not so much the physical manifestations as the emotional and spiritual changes that our culture does not acknowledge even as it is the major source.

Rubin and I share a disdain for the relentless focus on youth, the anti-aging industry, the dubious value of brain games, elders who pretend they are not old.

It is the less than artful photography of ancient bodies I mentioned above that comes to mind when I read part of Rubin's conclusion in her Salon piece:

”...we're living in a weird combination of the public idealization of aging that lies alongside the devaluation of the old. And it isn't good for anybody.

“Not the 60-year-olds who know they can't do what they did at 40 but keep trying, not the 80-year-olds who, when their body and mind remind them that they're not 60, feel somehow inadequate, as if they've done something wrong, failed a test.”

Until we, as a society, find a way to value the late years of elders' lives – all the years, in all their manifestations - there will continue to be old people like Lillian Rubin, me and a certain percentage of you who are ashamed to know that sometimes we feel “not like them.” Until we are forced, one day, to admit, finally, that we are.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Dan Gogerty: Ag Terms in Advertising – Natural Ignorance is Bliss


Are Elders REALLY More Susceptible to Scams and Fraud?

Every year or two, I write a blog post about scams, swindles and frauds that are likely to be perpetrated upon elders, along with some information on how to avoid them.

Conventional wisdom in the reporting about elders and fraud, supported by the FBI, Nolo, NCOA, AARP and other organizations one would expect to be knowledgeable, is that many more old people are cheated out of their money than younger people:

”The U.S. Department of Justice,” writes Nolo in an undated piece on the website, “estimates that dishonest telemarketers take in an estimated $40 billion each year, bilking one in six American consumers -- and the AARP claims that about 80% of them are 50 or older.”

In support of the assertion that elders are more stupid than others, the FBI relies on infantilizing us. Here are some of their reasons from an undated page at the FBI website:

“People who grew up in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s were generally raised to be polite and trusting. Con artists exploit these traits...

“Older Americans are less likely to report a fraud because they don’t know who to report it to...

“When an elderly victim does report the crime, they often make poor witnesses...

“Senior citizens are more interested in and susceptible to products promising increased cognitive function, virility, physical conditioning, anti-cancer properties, and so on...”

As I reported here last year, I had been irritated for years at these assumptions that old people are more frequent victims:

”Why should they [be]?” I wrote. “In fact (thought I), with age comes experience and many elders have probably been burned enough times by unscrupulous people to be more alert to it than those with less experience.”

But that post last year was about new studies showing that scans of elder brains reveal diminished response to untrustworthiness. I concluded,

”So it seems my arrogance was showing in believing that my brain is healthy enough that I could not fall victim to a swindler. Now I know better. We are all vulnerable and these studies are a good warning to be careful.”

Well, not so fast. Although I generally stay away from reporting studies that use words like might, maybe, could about results, last year's studies were about what researchers found (or found lacking) in brains of young and old.

Not many maybes about that. Except, perhaps, in interpretation.

More recently, three researchers at the University of Waterloo in Canada looked into the available data to see if elders really are scammed more often than younger people:

”While there isn’t much research that directly answers this question, the research that does exist suggests that older adults may be less frequent victims than other age groups,” reports one news source.

As the abstract of the published research report notes, there isn't enough evidence to be certain that elders are less frequent victims but neither is there evidence that they are more frequent victims.

”In generalizing from laboratory findings of cognitive decline to age differences in the prevalence of consumer fraud, psychologists may underestimate the influence in everyday life of possible protective factors associated with old age, including increased experience and changes in goals, lifestyle, income, as well as purchasing and risk behaviors.”

Just as I have always suspected – that a lifetime of experience make elders less vulnerable to scammers. Maybe. Maybe not.

But the jury is out and such organizations as Nola, NCOA, AARP and the FBI, lacking evidence, should not assume that old people are too stupid to come in out of the rain.

If I have learned anything in 20 years of studying aging, it is that the negative myths and presumptions about elders by the ignorant and uninformed are refuted far more often than they are upheld.

That does not mean that even the most vigilant people of any age cannot be scammed by clever swindlers. Nor does it mean that the experts who are so quick to scorn elders' cognitive capabilities can't provide useful information.

They are correct that elders are frequently targeted because the bad guys, too, believe the stereotype that old people are more susceptible than young people. And, when you are robo-calling and emailing millions, you are bound to turn up some who really do suffer cognitive decline.

So here are some good websites with information on the many ways the bad guys use part us from our money. (Do note, however, than none of the pages are dated so there is no way to know if, for example, “top 10 scams” are still true. New ones have undoubtedly been invented by now and others may have become more or less common.)

The FBI Common Fraud Scheme/Seniors page
The NCOA Top 10 Scams Targeting Seniors
NOLO Financial Scams Against Seniors


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Arlene Corwin: The Best Lovers


Welsh Declaration of Rights for Old People

Last week, Wales became the first country in the world to adopt a Declaration of Rights for Older People. Deputy Minister for Social Services, Gwenda Thomas said,

“The number of older people in Wales is growing and there is no dedicated set of rights for older people in the UK. Age discrimination and ageism are widely tolerated across the world.

"We must dispel old-fashioned stereotypes of people based on their age, and recognise and value the enormous contributions that older people make in all of our communities across Wales.

“I’m therefore delighted that Wales is once again leading the way by publishing a Declaration of the Rights of Older People in Wales.”

According to NewsWales, Older People's Commissioner for Wales, Sarah Rochira, worked with elders themselves to create the Declaration,

”...which has received cross-party support in the National Assembly for Wales, is based on the UN Principles for Older Persons and sets out what older people have said they value and what rights they feel would support and protect them.”

The Declaration is meant not only to help old people understand their rights in Wales, but to be a guide for those who are responsible for the development and delivery of social services to Welsh elders.

Here are the six points in the Declaration along with the fuller explanations of each as laid out in the document:

I have the right to be who I am
Not all older people are the same and I have the right to be who I am. I am a unique person and have the right to be understood, considered and recognised as an individual. I have the right to be treated equally and without discrimination.

I have the right to be valued
Because I am human I have the right to be valued. My life is significant to me and those who care about me, and I have a right to live a life that has value, meaning and purpose. I matter. I am of worth both when I contribute to society and when I no longer do so.

I have free will and the right to make decisions about my life
I have the right to make decisions and be supported to do so if necessary. I have the right to exercise my free will and make choices. My opinion is the most important when decisions are being made about me and my life. I have a right to be supported to live independently.

I have the right to decide where I live, how I live and with whom I live
I have the right to decide where I live and to choose the person or people to spend my life with. I have a right to be in my own home and with the community I love.

I have the right to work, develop, participate and contribute
My life does not come to an end because I have reached a certain age. I have a right to work. I have a right to full involvement in my own community. I have a right to thrive and to continue learning, developing and growing. I have a right to support so I can continue contributing. I have a right to explore new things.

I have a right to safety, security and justice
I have a right to be taken seriously when I am afraid. I have a right to information and advice that addresses my worries and uncertainties. If I need the law to protect me I should not be treated differently because I am older. I also have the right to take risks if I want to.

You will find the full document here [pdf].

A big thank you to TimeGoesBy reader Allan Moult for bringing the Welsh Declaration to my attention. I was, of course, reminded of An Elder Pledge which I've shown you before and hangs on the wall by my desk. Each supports the other nicely - declarations from government and from elders themselves.

Elders Pledge

The Pledge was written by elderlaw attorney, Orrin Onken. The poster is 12 inches by 36 inches and can be ordered from the Syracuse Cultural Workers website for $15 unframed plus shipping. There are also postcards and bookmarks of the pledge.

As the population of elders increases dramatically around the world, I hope Wales will not be the only the first of many countries to adopt such a Declaration and make it binding.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marc Leavitt: Reincarnation


Old Age Incontinence

According to a June 2014 report [pdf] from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than half the U.S. population age 65 and older (50.9%) report urinary and/or bowel leakage.

That's just the group of us who live independently; there are different numbers, higher and lower, for those in care homes of various kinds.

Because it's not a subject anyone likes to talk about much, we giggle and make jokes.

IncontinenceHotLine

Although it is hard to openly discuss incontinence, it is important health issue that can have serious effects on people's lives. When WebMD reported on the CDC study, it noted,

"Bladder and bowel incontinence is a highly prevalent disease that has emotional, health, social and economic impacts in the daily life of our elderly population in the U.S.," said Dr. Farzeen Firoozi, a urologist at North Shore-LIJ Health System in Manhasset, N.Y.”

The first time I wrote about this often taboo subject in 2009, Cop Car posted my favorite comment: “I'm not dressed without a maxi pad.”

Ever since, when the subject comes up, I've laughed again and passed it on (so to speak) to others (with attribution, Cop Car).

The reason for that post was, as I explained then,

”...lately, when I laugh, sneeze or cough with too much force, I leak. Or, more bluntly, I pee in my pants. Not a lot, a few drops, and it happens not just when I need to visit the bathroom; it can happen even when I have just peed.”

So I did some research and reported to you. As I have further explained, more recently, losing weight solved the problem. No more leaks.

All this came to mind a few days ago when I received the weekly mailing from Harvard Medical School selling their topical health booklets – this one titled Better Bladder and Bowel Control. The email itself, headlined Five Ways to Dodge Incontinence, provides some good advice:

Watch your weight. Excess weight and incontinence can go hand in hand, particularly for women. One theory is that extra abdominal fat can weaken the pelvic floor muscles and lead to stress incontinence (leaking when coughing, laughing, sneezing, etc.). In some cases, simply losing weight can improve incontinence.

Don’t smoke. Smoking threatens your health in many ways. It also doubles the likelihood that a woman will develop stress incontinence. Nicotine has also been linked to urge incontinence.

Stay active. In the Nurses’ Health Study, middle-aged women who were the most physically active were the least likely to develop incontinence.

Minimize bladder irritants. Caffeine and alcohol have been linked to urge incontinence (the feeling you need to urinate even when the bladder isn’t full). Carbonated drinks, the artificial sweetener aspartame (NutraSweet), spicy foods, and citrus fruits and juices cause urge incontinence in some people.

Don’t strain with bowel movements. This can weaken the pelvic floor muscles. If your stools are frequently hard or take considerable effort to pass, talk with your doctor. In a study involving people ages 65 and older, treating constipation improved a variety of urinary symptoms, including frequency, urgency, and burning. Increasing the fiber in your diet and drinking enough fluid can help prevent constipation.”

As useful as those items are to know, you can't get the rest of Harvard's information on causes and treatment without shelling out a lot more money than I care to spend.

Therefore, as TGB public service, here are some links to reputable online sources of information on incontinence:

WebMD Incontinence & Overactive Bladder Health Center
Many links to full articles, explanations and discussions of all aspects of incontinence

Medscape Urinary Incontinence in the Elderly
A thorough, single-spaced, eight-page explanation meant for physicians but easily understandable by laymen

Mayo Clinic Urinary Incontinence
A good section with pages on definition, symptoms, causes, risk factors, complications, treatments, drugs, even home remedies

Incontinence is highly treatable with drugs, other interventions and in some cases, surgery. For me – like so many of the minor afflictions of age - just irritating, every single day.

I am grateful my bout of incontinence was so easily solved with weight loss. I always wondered, when I took up Cop Car's solution, what jokes the check out clerks at Rite-Aid were telling each other after this white-haired old woman paid for her Maxipads.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Vicki E. Jones: I Accept the Nomination


ELDER MUSIC: 1956 Again

Tibbles1SM100x130This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.


What happened in 1956?

  • Archie Roach was born
  • Melbourne staged the Olympics Games
  • Elvis appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show
  • My Fair Lady opened on Broadway
  • IBM invented the hard disk drive. It contained fifty 24-inch disks with total storage capacity of 5MB
  • High Society was released
  • Melbourne were premiers

I'll start the year with the inimitable LITTLE RICHARD.

Little Richard

Any year that starts with him can't be all bad. His song is one of his big ones, Rip It Up.

♫ Little Richard - Rip It Up

From real rock & roll to no rock & roll at all, in spite of the title. Around this time mainstream musos were trying to cash in on the craze and completely missing the mark. This is a good example by KAY STARR singing Rock and Roll Waltz.

What a shocker (the song that is, not the singer – Kay's pretty good).

Kay Starr

♫ Kay Starr - Rock and Roll Waltz

My Prayer started life in 1926 as a song called Avant de Mourir written by Georges Boulanger who was a Romanian violinist, composer and conductor.

Around 1939, Jimmy Kennedy wrote English lyrics to the tune and it was recorded with some success by both Glenn Miller and The Ink Spots. More time passed and THE PLATTERS had a go at it this year.

The Platters

Many others have turned their hand (or their mouth) to it, but The Platters' version is still the pick of them and the biggest selling as well.

♫ The Platters - My Prayer

Lincoln Chase wrote song Jim Dandy for LAVERN BAKER.

LaVern Baker

The song is all about how our hero Jim rescues women from all sorts of improbable situations. The song was successful enough that Lincoln wrote a follow up called Jim Dandy Got Married (I don't know if that counts as an improbable situation).

♫ LaVern Baker - Jim Dandy

GENE VINCENT started his adult life in the navy, sailing to Korea at one stage.

Gene Vincent

Upon his return he was seriously injured in a motor cycle accident (hit by a drunk driver) that damaged his leg so he had a limp for the rest of his life.

He was discharged from the navy on medical grounds and started a band called Gene Vincent and His Blue Caps. He wrote a song called Be-Bop-A-Lula and they recorded a demo.

Capitol Records wanted an artist to compete with Elvis and they got to hear Gene's demo. They signed him immediately and they recorded it for real and it became a big hit and a very influential song indeed.

♫ Gene Vincent - Be-Bop-A-Lula

The charts of the day still contained artists from earlier times, one of whom was FRANKIE LAINE.

Frankie Laine

Even though he was renowned for singing cowboy songs, Frankie was at heart a jazz singer. This isn't quite jazz, although there are some inflections there. It's more big band pop. A Woman in Love.

♫ Frankie Laine - A Woman In Love

TERESA BREWER really is A Sweet Old Fashioned Girl.

Teresa Brewer

Scoobley dooby be doo be doo (etc).

♫ Teresa Brewer - A Sweet Old Fashioned Girl

Oh Eddie, what possessed you to record Dungaree Doll? Eddie is, if you didn't know, EDDIE FISHER.

Eddie Fisher

I imagine he was still trying to remain relevant to the young folks but it was already too late. I don't know if you can still remember this one. I can, my sister played it all the time. Deep sigh.

♫ Eddie Fisher - Dungaree Doll

Shirley Goodman and Leonard Lee recorded as SHIRLEY AND LEE.

Shirley & Lee

Shirley and Lee were born only days apart in New Orleans and had several big hits together while they were still teenagers. They wrote those themselves.

They had an interesting style, not singing together, really two separate singers that seemed to work. Here's one of those early songs, one that's become famous as a sort of anthem of New Orleans - Let the Good Times Roll.

♫ Shirley & Lee - Let the Good Times Roll

I'll finish with The King. ELVIS was already in the mix by 1956, but it was this year that broke him worldwide with Heartbreak Hotel.

Elvis Presley

He had several more hits this year (and every year for the decade). This is one of them, Don't Be Cruel.

♫ Elvis Presley - Don't Be Cruel

You can find more music from 1956 here.

1957 will appear in two weeks' time.


INTERESTING STUFF – 19 July 2014


84 YEAR OLD STUNS AMERICA'S GOT TALENT PANEL

The judges on AGT were pretty sure they weren't going to like Mr. Jessel. See what happened.


MARY PHILLIPS UPDATE

In last week's Interesting Stuff, 98-year-old Mary Phillips explained how she was fighting an eviction notice from the apartment she has lived in for 50 years. TGB reader Chrissoup sent in a followup report which includes a statement from the company that wants to evict Phillips.

”Today Urban Green CEO David McCloskey released a statement saying that Phillips would be allowed to remain in her Mission neighborhood apartment for the rest of her life cost-free.”

According to the rest of the story, that's not quite it. There is no provision for Mary Phillips' friend and caregiver to remain in her apartment which would, it seems, make the offer useless.

And it's even more complicated than that. You can read the report at SF Gate.


THE BEST LEMONADE FROM LEMONS STORY EVER

Joe Pleban, age 23, loved sports, extreme sports. He contracted a rare joint disease in his ankle that required amputation. You would think that would be a terrible blow to Joe. Think again.

The fullness of the human spirit can sometimes be astonishing. You can read more about Joe Pleban here.


U.S. DIALECT MAP

A bunch of folks at Harvard surveyed more than 350,000 people to identify some regional linquistic differences and then The New York Times turned it into an interactive quiz for its readers.

Here's my map:

Dialect Map

Red areas are where my linquistic origins are most similar; blue is least similar. I don't think it is anywhere near correct but then, I've lived for short and long periods of time in ten U.S. cities scattered all over the map so I probably don't have an easily identifiable dialect.

You can try the quiz for yourself here.


JOHN OLIVER ON INEQUALITY AND AMERICA'S WEALTH GAP

What becomes more evident with each passing week of John Oliver's HBO program is that he, a comedian, is doing the best educational reporting on serious issues of any media outlet around – any, including print, online and television.

Here is his latest from last Sunday's episode of Last Week Tonight. It's lengthy and worth every moment.


LET'S HERE IT FOR WOMEN BISHOPS

At least one religious group is catching up to the 20th century. Last week the General Synod of the Church of England approved consecration of women bishops. Read about it here.


ELDERS REACT TO GOOGLE GLASS

I'm never quite sure if these videos of Elders React to [insert almost anything] are funny or ageist. Mostly I laugh because, depending on the topic, I could be one of the elders in the videos.


FOR SHERLOCK HOLMES FANS

I've been a Sherlock Holmes fan since I was a kid. I've read the entire oeuvre- oh, probably half a dozen times over my life although I'm not so far gone to have considered membership in the Baker Street Irregulars.

Now, production is underway in London of a new movie about Holmes, this time as a 93-year-old retiree living by the sea who is struggling with a failing memory. He is played by Sir Ian McKellan. This is the first public photo of McKellan in character:

McKellen as Holmes - AP Photo/Agatha A Nitecka, See-Saw Films

The film, titled Holmes, is adapted from a 2006 novel by Mitch Cullen titled A Slight Trick of the Mind. I hope the film improves on the book which I found too tedious to finish.

You can read more about McKellen's new role here.


HIDDEN MIRACLES OF THE NATURAL AND SCIENTIFIC WORLDS

Filmmaker Louie Schwartzberg gave a Tedtalk recently about a film that makes use of high-speed cameras, time lapses and microscopes to show us the world around us that cannot be seen with the naked eye.

Thank Darlene Costner for sending this video which is a collection of excerpts from a new 3D movie titled, Mysteries of the Unseen World. It's great fun to watch.


Interesting Stuff is a weekly listing of short takes and links to web items that have caught my attention; some related to aging and some not, some useful and others just for fun.

You are all encouraged to submit items for inclusion. Just click “Contact” in the upper left corner of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I probably won't have time to acknowledge receipt and there is no guarantee of publication. But when I do include them, you will be credited and I will link to your blog IF you include the name of the blog and its URL.


The Power of Music for Dementia

A couple of years ago, my friend Jim Stone and several others readers sent me a remarkable video about Henry. At the time of filming, he had been 10 years living in a nursing home in dementia care - listless, unresponsive and as one person says in the video, hardly alive.

Then he was given a iPod filled with music from the era of his youth. Watch what happened:

Henry's life was changed due to the efforts of social worker Dan Cohen to bring iPods full of music to dementia care homes throughout the United States and Canada. The results are remarkable. As explained on Cohen's website, Music and Memory,

”...our brains are hard-wired to connect music with long-term memory.

“Even for persons with severe dementia, music can tap deep emotional recall. For individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s, memory for things — names, places, facts — is compromised, but memories from our teenage years can be well-preserved.

“Favorite music or songs associated with important personal events can trigger memory of lyrics and the experience connected to the music. Beloved music often calms chaotic brain activity and enables the listener to focus on the present moment and regain a connection to others.”

Today, 18 July, a movie about Cohen's efforts to bring music to millions of dementia patients opens in cities around the United States. It is titled Alive Inside and it reveals the power of music to restore a measure of life, memory and pleasure to people who have been semi-comatose.

This is the official Alive Inside trailer.

There is a list of opening dates and venues in various U.S. cities for the movie at the Alive Inside website.

At the website for Dan Cohen's Music and Memory nonprofit organization, you can make a tax-deductible contribution to help bring music to more dementia patients, and you can read about the research and science behind the music that is changing the lives of patients and their caregivers.

As I was writing this story, it occurred to me that perhaps among all the papers we have for end-of-life issues, we should all make a list, or even a thumb drive, of the music we loved in our youth and listened to throughout our lives so that should dementia become our fate, caregivers would not need to guess.

This is a local news story showing how music has affected the lives of some residents in care home in Pennsylvania:


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mary Mack: Dinner With Mom


How Do You Feel About Your Appearance?

It doesn't take long for little kids to understand that physical appearance - whether you are beautiful or handsome or not in the eyes of others - matters a great deal in the world.

Those who win the beauty lottery have all kinds of advantages over the rest of us including, according to repeated surveys, higher income throughout their lives. Relatedly, one of the reasons old people are marginalized is that younger people think we are unsightly – you know, all those ugly wrinkles.

It doesn't seem to be true for men (I could be wrong about that), but pressure on girls and women to make themselves as attractive as possible is what keeps companies that sell cosmetics, hair care products and chemical enhancements wealthy, billions of dollars style wealthy.

That's because the entire industry is geared to make all women who are not Angelina Jolie believe they are unattractive and most of us buy into it.

In regard to my appearance, I have always been adept at selective vision – seeing only what I want to see about my hair, face, body. During the decade when I got fat, before my recent weight loss (40 pounds), I never actually looked at my body.

That was easy while I was still living in Maine; I had no full length mirror. But even in this home that came with several full length mirrors, it was as though there was a veil over my eyes that made me invisible in the reflection.

Nowadays, I'm quite happy to see myself clearly in the mirror. Even the remarkably high number of new wrinkles that come with weight loss in old age (in places where I've never had wrinkles before) doesn't bother me.

According to a new survey from Gallup of more than 85,000 adults age 18 and older, I am far from alone in being comfortable with my appearance in old age.

”Though many may pine for the physical appearance they had in their younger years, America's seniors are the most confident in their looks. Two-thirds (66%) of Americans aged 65 and older 'agreed' or 'strongly agreed' that they always feel good about their physical appearance...”

Elders even beat 18- to 34-year-olds in the survey. Sixty-one percent of them like their appearance. The middle-aged are least likely (54 percent) feel good about their appearance.

As you might suspect, throughout life men are more confident about their looks than women and they hit their peak – when the largest number are comfortable with their appearance (74 percent) - at age 80-84.

That age for women (69 percent) is 85 and older.

Now we could attribute that result to poor eyesight but it's much more fun to believe that at last, toward the very end of our lives, we finally achieve a measure of wisdom as to what is really important and what is not.

You can read the entire survey results at the Gallup website.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Clifford Rothband: The Chance of a Lifetime


Myths of Age Quiz

People old and young believe a lot of twaddle about elders. I first wrote about that during the inaugural year of this blog, 2004, when hardly anyone was reading it.

A portion of Erdman Palmore's Facts on Aging Quiz had appeared online (the page is gone now) and I used it to help readers test themselves about what age myths they might still believe.

Palmore is emeritus professor of medical sociology at Duke University, a gerontologist who is a widely respected expert on aging and ageism with several books on the those topics to his credit.

It might be useful for TGB readers to try his quiz now, a decade later. Given your often enlightened and enlightening comments on this blog, I expect you to do well:

  1. The majority of old people – age 65-plus – are senile.
  2. The five senses (sight, hearing, taste, touch, smell) all tend to weaken in old age.
  3. The majority of old people have no interest in, nor capacity for, sexual relations.
  4. Lung vital capacity tends to decline with old age.
  5. The majority of old people feel miserable most of the time.
  6. Physical strength tends to decline with age.
  7. At least one-tenth of the aged are living in long-stay institutions such as nursing homes, mental hospital and homes for the aged.
  8. Aged drivers have fewer accidents per driver than those under age 65.
  9. Older workers usually cannot work as effectively as younger workers.
  10. More than three-fourths of the aged are healthy enough to do their normal activities without help.
  11. The majority of old people are unable to adapt to change.
  12. Older people usually take longer to learn something new.
  13. Depression is more frequent among the elderly than among younger people.
  14. Older people tend to react slower than younger people.
  15. In general, old people tend to be pretty much alike.
  16. The majority of old people say they are seldom bored.
  17. The majority of older people are socially isolated.
  18. Older workers have fewer accidents than younger workers.
  19. More than 20 percent of the population is now 65 and older.
  20. The majority of medical practitioners tend to give low priority to the aged.
  21. The majority of old people have incomes below the poverty line, as defined by the U.S. federal government.
  22. The majority of old people are working or would like to have some kind of work to do, including housework and volunteer work.
  23. Old people tend to become more religious as they age.
  24. The majority of old people say they are seldom irritated or angry.
  25. The health and economic status of old people will be about the same or worse in the year 2010, compared with younger people.

Answers: All odd-numbered statements are False. All even-numbered statements are True.

However, by 2050, No. 19 will be true and I suspect that with the growth in numbers of elders as the boomers age, No. 20 may no longer be true or will not be much longer. I don't know if No. 25 is still so or not. The original quiz was published in 1976 and updated twice, in 1988 and 1998.

The page I linked to in 2004 with explanations of the answers is gone now so the only place to find Palmore's commentary, I suppose, is the book which is not currently in my budget.

There is a modern myth of aging that I believe has developed too recently for the good Professor Palmore to have addressed in his quiz updates: that the best, most admired kind of elders are those who most resemble young people, those who “act young.”

So people like the first President George Bush, who jumps out of an airplane every few years (most recently on his 90th birthday last month), are held up as exemplars of good aging, a standard to which all others, it is implied, must aspire or they will be tagged with having failed old age.

Mainstream media loves to tell stories of “redefining old age” by recounting the few who run marathons or take on daredevil motorcycle stunts or, a few years ago, three who made it to the top of Mt. Everest.

That's fine for those people and I certainly don't begrudge them their effort and thrills but they are not anywhere near the average elder anymore than the young who take these risks represent the average in their age groups.

Also, I don't see these extreme sports elders as particularly brave – or perhaps I mean that their kind of bravery is least impressive.

The media ignores all the old people who day in and day out keep on trucking in the face of cancer, Parkinson's disease, varieties of disability and dementia that commonly afflict the aged along with always, in our late years, the near prospect of certain death.

These days I would add a 26th – even numbered, therefore true – statement to Professor Palmore's quiz: Being old requires more courage than other stages of life and most elders accept the challenge with grace and forbearance.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Henry Lowenstern: Rhymer's Lament


Snapshot of 65 and Older Age Group in the U.S.

Did you know:

That the states with the highest proportion of old people in their populations in 2010 were Florida, West Virginia, Maine and Pennsylvania (all above 15 percent)? States with the lowest proportion of elders were Alaska, Utah and Texas?

That the population aged 65 and older was the only age group to see an increase in voter participation in the 2012 presidential election compared with the 2008 presidential election?

That if you were 65 years old in 2010, your life expectancy then was 17.7 years if your are a man and 20.3 years if you are a woman? For the rest of you who are older, here a chart.

LifeExpectancy2010

Those facts are from a report issued this month by the U.S. Census Bureau about health, economic situation and social characteristics, among other data, of the 40.3 million Americans who were 65 and older in 2010, along with the same historical statistics from the year 2000 and projections to 2050.

Here are a few facts to pique your interest.

Death rates declined for the 65-plus populations (other age groups too) between 2000 and 2010 but it was the same old, same old diseases – heart disease and cancer being the top two – that carried elders away.

Death Causes

This one isn't going to remove any fears most of us have about dementia. Here's a chart from the study showing the percentage of the 65-plus population with cognitive impairment:

Cognitive Impairment

The median income for married couples and individuals aged 65 or older was $25,757 in 2010. It drops dramatically from a median of $37,200 in the 65-69 age group to $19,457 for those 80 and older.

Social Security leads the way in sources of income followed by earnings, pensions and asset income.

Income Sources

Social Security plays very different roles in the lives of people in the lowest and highest income quintiles. It provides an average of 84.3 percent of income for the lowest quintile and only 17.3 percent for the highest quintile. (See page 86)

The number of veterans in the 65-plus cohort surprised me – a total of just under 42 percent which tells you how many more of the population served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam than more recent wars.

Veteran Population

This doesn't scratch the surface of the information you can find in the full 65+ in the United States: 2010 study. I got hooked for two hours.

Don't let the total of 192 pages put you off. Most of it is charts, tables and citations and unlike many such reports, the writing is easy to understand, written with non-statisticians in mind.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Diane Davis: Casinos: The New Senior Centers


Blended Generations, Blended Technology

If you read my Senior Planet story about my choice for best in show for elders at CE Week in New York, you also got a small taste of a runner up business I liked, Laundry Puppy.

But there is much more to tell.

First, you have to love the name. Second, it is a radically simple service that you don't need me or anyone to explain. This box that is posted at the top of the Laundry Puppy home page says pretty much all you need to know:

Laundrypuppyhowitworks

If that's not entirely clear, let me repeat: you pay only what you would pay the laundry or cleaner if you did the dropoff and pickup yourself. No extra charge for Laundry Puppy. And here is an example of the text messaging:

Laundrypuppytextexample

Maybe it's not a necessary service for small towns and suburbia (don't, however, count that out), but in big cities, millions of people need clean clothes and have no time to deal with it themselves.

(Personal Example: When I was still working and living in Greenwich Village, for three years I needed to leave for work before the local laundry opened and I was rarely home before it closed. That meant I had to use some of my precious weekend time dealing with dirty clothes. Laundry Puppy, where were you when I needed you?)

And it goes without saying that the service is also good for elders who may find it hard to get out and about as easily as they once did or to haul a heavy laundry bag to the local laundromat.

Over several chats with the 25-year-old co-founder and CEO, Aaron Cohn, I learned that Laundry Puppy launched last fall and is already available in many sections of Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens. It is currently being beta-tested throughout the Bronx, northern New Jersey, Miami, Boston, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. with more locations to come.

All that would make Laundry Puppy a good story but there is more that makes it even better, especially for a blog about growing old.

As Aaron explained to me, the original idea was that when Laundry Puppy contracted with individual cleaning and laundry establishments, they would provide an internet connected tablet for the owners to communicate orders and information with Laundry Puppy.

What Aaron had not anticipated, however, is that most of those laundry and cleaning store owners were old enough to be not only his parents, but his grandparents as well and although some tried to work with the tablet, overall the learning curve was more than they wanted to bother with.

Now you would think, hearing such a story, that Aaron's business idea had hit a gigantic snag, even a wall. We live these days in a fast-moving world of internet, texting and apps and supposedly no new business is worth its tera- or petabytes without a glittering assortment of electronic bells and whistles.

Well, you might think that. I might think that. But Aaron didn't think that.

Aaron realized that there is a foolproof, legacy technology that needed no Kickstarter or Indiegogo funding, no development, no beta testing. Not even a penny of investment.

Are you ready for it? The telephone.

So customers, as in the original business plan, text their pickup request to Laundry Puppy. Laundry Puppy then switches to old technology to telephone the laundry or cleaning service closest to the location of the pickup request.

No extra steps for the customer who only texts with Laundry Puppy, and the owners of the cleaning establishments get to expand their businesses while using the technology they have known and loved all their lives.

It is a beautiful blend of old and new, young and old.

But wait. There's more. A surprise kicker. Aaron mentioned in a phone chat that only recently his mother told him that the laundry business is apparently in Aaron's genes. This is a photo of the S. Schiffman Cleaners and its trucks that did dry cleaning pick up and delivery on Long Island many years ago:

SchiffmanCleanerslaundry puppy370

And here is a photo of Aaron's great grandfather and great uncle who ran the Schiffman dry cleaning business.

GreatGrandfatherandgreatuncle370

Aaron's enthusiasm for Laundry Puppy is what attracted me to his booth at CE Week. He's irresistible when he's explaining it. And as we have seen, he is also a creative businessman who adapts quickly to new information.

Even though Aaron's business didn't quite make the cut for my best in show, I thought you would enjoy his story and it's a good way, too, for me to wish Aaron a huge success. But I suspect he doesn't need it. He's going to be fine.

There is, however, one thing that puzzles me - a small mystery.

Laundry Puppy has been in operation for about seven or eight months. Certainly there were months, maybe even a year or more of development time before launch.

During that period, Aaron must have explained to his mother what he was working on. Wouldn't you think? And so how is it that she didn't get around to telling him about his grandfather's and great uncle's laundry business until now?


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mickey Rogers: Selective Hearing


ELDER MUSIC: The Songs of Gerry Goffin and Carole King

Tibbles1SM100x130This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.


Carole King & Gerry Goffin

The recent death of Gerry Goffin has brought to the fore all those great songs he wrote in the sixties with his then wife Carole King. He also wrote with others later and he won Oscars, Tonys and pretty much every other award around for music. Today, though, we're using those first songs.

Gerry and Carole met at Queens College and they started writing songs together in the evenings. After they graduated, they got married and continued their song-writing together at the famous Brill Building, a mecca for such activity at the time.

Mostly, Gerry wrote the words and Carole the music, at least until she became a solo artist in her own right when she performed both functions (as well as singing and playing the piano, of course).

I'll start with one of their earliest songs, a mini teenage opera performed by THE SHIRELLES.

The Shirelles

The song is Will You Love Me Tomorrow? and it has been covered by many over the years but none perform it as well as they do. The Shirelles' singing, and especially lead vocalist Shirley Owens (later Aston), captured the angst of teenager love (and to put no fine point on it, sex) better than anyone.

♫ The Shirelles - Will You Love Me Tomorrow

GENE MCDANIELS started out as a gospel singer and then switched to jazz. Not just singing, but he was a fine sax and trumpet player as well.

Gene McDaniels

In the early sixties, he had a string of hits that were the equal or better than anything else around at the time. He later produced records and became an acclaimed songwriter.

His song today is one of those aforementioned hits, Point Of No Return.

♫ Gene McDaniels - Point Of No Return

One of the songs that I was surprised to learn was written by our duo, especially as Gerry wrote the words, is one of ARETHA FRANKLIN's biggest hits: (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.

Aretha Franklin

The song came into being when Jerry Wexler, honcho for Atlantic Records where Aretha recorded, encountered Carole on the streets of New York and said he wanted a song about a natural woman for Aretha. This is the result.

The song has been covered by many artists including, rather surprisingly, Rod Stewart (who does a rather good job of it). Carole's own version on the "Tapestry" album is interesting too, and quite different from Aretha's with just piano and bass accompaniment.

♫ Aretha Franklin - (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman

I was playing this next track and Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, said, "You'd better include that one." I was going to in any case but there's no way I could omit it now. It's from BLOOD SWEAT AND TEARS.

Blood, Sweat & Tears

The track is Hi-De-Ho, sometimes prefixed or suffixed by That Old Sweet Roll.

♫ Blood, Sweat & Tears - Hi-De-Ho

By the time they recorded the album "The Notorious Byrd Brothers,” THE BYRDS had been reduced to a duo, Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman.

Roger McGuinn & Chris Hillman

Of the other original members, Gene Clark left because he didn't like touring, especially flying, David Crosby was kicked out because of "artistic differences" and Michael Clarke was kicked out just before he decided to leave.

In spite of all that, the remaining pair produced a fine album that contained two Goffin/King songs, Goin' Back and Wasn't Born to Follow, both worthy of inclusion.

I've decided on Wasn't Born to Follow.

♫ The Byrds - Wasn't Born To Follow

THE DRIFTERS recorded several songs by our pair. Not just them, but Ben E. King, the lead singer of their best songs, did so as well as a solo artist.

The Drifters

They were all so good it was pretty much a roll of the die as to which I should include. As it came up 6 (okay, I didn't do that), Up on the Roof is the one I'm using.

♫ The Drifters - Up On The Roof

DUSTY SPRINGFIELD recorded several Goffin/King songs, including the two mentioned above recorded by The Byrds as well as the Blood Sweat and Tears track. It was a matter of juggling all three and seeing who I'd like doing which.

Dusty Springfield

The answer is obvious by now as I've decided on the other two, so that leaves Dusty performing Goin' Back.

♫ Dusty Springfield - Goin' Back

BOBBY VEE's start in show biz wasn't under the most salubrious circumstances – he took over from Buddy Holly on the Winter Tour after Buddy and the others were killed in the plane crash.

Bobby Vee

He's generally not thought of too highly and I don't understand that. His songs still hold up today and I like them a lot (okay, I liked them at the time as well).

It's time for his reputation to be rehabilitated. I'll start that by playing Take Good Care of My Baby, one of a couple of Goffin/King compositions he recorded at the time.

♫ Bobby Vee - Take Good Care Of My Baby

Now one that even The Beatles covered, Chains. However, going with my (almost general) policy of playing the original, I give you THE COOKIES.

The Cookies

The Cookies were Little Eva's backing singers. Eva was initially Gerry and Carole's baby sitter and for whom they wrote The Locomotion. She also sang backing vocals of this song. However, this isn't Eva's turn, it's time for The Cookies.

♫ The Cookies - Chains

Although GENE PITNEY was a songwriter who wrote for himself and others, he wasn't averse to recording other people's material as well.

Gene Pitney

That's handy for us today as we can include him singing Every Breath I Take (no relation to the later Sting song with a similar name).

♫ Gene Pitney - Every Breath That I Take


INTERESTING STUFF: 12 July 2014


98 YEAR OLD EVICTED FROM HER HOME

Mary Phillips has lived in her San Francisco apartment for 50 years. She has always paid her rent on time. But she's being evicted anyway – except that she has no intention of going quietly. Take a look at this news report from KRON-TV that explains it all.

Hurray to Mary Phillips for fighting back and I wish I could help. You can read more here and here.


NEW HARRY POTTER STORY

I was – and you could say I still am – a big-time Harry Potter fan. I didn't quite line up at bookstores at midnight with the eager youngsters when new books were released but I wanted to.

Now there is a new Harry Potter story from J.K. Rowling in the form of an item written by gossip columnist Rita Skeeter reporting from the 2014 Quidditch World Cup Finals. Here's an excerpt (poor grammar and all):

”About to turn 34, there are a couple of threads of silver in the famous Auror’s black hair, but he continues to wear the distinctive round glasses that some might say are better suited to a style-deficient twelve-year-old.

“The famous lightning scar has company: Potter is sporting a nasty cut over his right cheekbone. Requests for information as to its provenance merely produced the usual response from the Ministry of Magic: ‘We do not comment on the top secret work of the Auror department, as we have told you no less than 514 times, Ms. Skeeter.’

“So what are they hiding? Is the Chosen One embroiled in fresh mysteries that will one day explode upon us all, plunging us into a new age of terror and mayhem?”

You can read the entire short story here.


APPARENTLY THIS IS A SPORT

Honest. It really is. In Finland and wait until you hear what it is: The Wife-Carrying World Championships. It's so silly and although it has been held since 1992, it has its origins

“...in the legend of Ronkainen the Robber. According to Finnish folklore, stretching back to the 19th century, it was his method of testing aspiring members of his gang by forcing them to lug sacks of grain or live animals over a similar course.”

Here's a video:

You can read more here. (Hat tip to Wendl Kornfeld)


DELIGHTFUL FREDDY THE CLOUD

Doctafil made my day this week when she sent a wonderful - as in filled with wonder - candy commercial. Take a look:

I am in awe of the mind that thought this up. There are some more Freddy the Cloud Skittles commercials here. Laugh and enjoy.


JOB: THE VIDEO WORKSHOP

There is a lot more to job hunting these days than what people our age are accustomed to. My friend Rick has issued his new, five-part video series that covers all those details. As the Qunitcareers website notes:

Rick Gillis...is a job board pioneer and job-search expert, whose mission in life is to empower job-seekers with the inside information and tools they need to succeed...He’s a guy who gets it and wants to share those insights with anyone willing to listen.”

Here's a preview of the video series:

You can find out more at Rick's website and if you go to the Quintcareers website, you'll find a 30 percent discount for the purchase.


UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS AT END OF LIFE

In a not only important but beautiful essay, Minneapolis internist Craig Bowron argues for less treatment of elders when the end of life is near.

It is almost a crime to quote just a sentence or two from this informed, heartfelt piece but I'm going to do it anyway - picking up where Bowron is discussing the family decision for more treatment or not:

”Doing something often feels better than doing nothing. Inaction feeds the sense of guilt-ridden ineptness family members already feel as they ask themselves, 'Why can’t I do more for this person I love so much?'

“At a certain stage of life, aggressive medical treatment can become sanctioned torture. When a case such as this comes along, nurses, physicians and therapists sometimes feel conflicted and immoral. We’ve committed ourselves to relieving suffering, not causing it.

“A retired nurse once wrote to me: 'I am so glad I don’t have to hurt old people any more.'”

If you click only one link in this blog post today, please make it this one and read Craig Bowran's entire essay from two years ago. (Hat tip to Tom Delmore)


GROW OLD WITH YOU

Last Monday, we talked about loneliness and old age. I should have included this song from Adam Sandler used in the delightful 2009 animated film, Up. It doesn't need to apply only to couples.


SEVEN LITTLE KITTENS ALL IN A ROW

From TGB reader, Zuleme, this too cute kitty video went viral this week:


Interesting Stuff is a weekly listing of short takes and links to web items that have caught my attention; some related to aging and some not, some useful and others just for fun.

You are all encouraged to submit items for inclusion. Just click “Contact” in the upper left corner of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I probably won't have time to acknowledge receipt and there is no guarantee of publication. But when I do include them, you will be credited and I will link to your blog IF you include the name of the blog and its URL.